In an age when children begin focusing on specific sports earlier and earlier, Southeast Whitfield senior Carlos Fraire is a classic case of the late bloomer.
But his journey from pudgy middle schooler to becoming one of the area’s top wrestlers is just a side note for a returning state finalist who wants one extra win in his final season in a high school ring.
Because it is another ring — the one that goes around a finger — that he is seeking.
“I feel a lot more confident coming into this year,” Fraire said. “I feel like I am a little stronger and a little faster. I’m also a little heavier, but I think I can get back down. But, I am trying to do what is better for the team and I want to win a state championship.”
He has a pretty good idea of what he is doing, even though this is just his fifth year of wrestling.
“I was a band nerd all of my middle school years,” Fraire said. “Jim Bethune, my coach in middle school, came up to me and said he needed a fat boy to wrestle. I told him I would give it a try, and I turned out liking it. For track, he told me he needed a shot thrower. He was the man who got me into sports. I was in the band playing tuba, 5-foot-5 and about 240 pounds.
“No one is going to be picking on me now,” he said with a laugh.
Fraire is coming off of a junior year that came about as close to winning a title as you could. He was 49-7 with four of those losses coming to region rival Bryson Brindle in the 220-pound weight class. The Allatoona wrestler, who is playing college football at Presbyterian this year, beat Fraire 3-2 in triple overtime in the state championship match last year. As a sophomore, Fraire finished one win from placing at state, and bounced back with last year’s run.
Coming within a point of winning a state title last year has been all of the motivation he has needed coming into this year.
“Especially when the coaches talk to me before a match, they just say his name and it fires me up,” Fraire said.
“Just the fact that I lost by a point, fires me up.”
A standout on the defensive and offensive lines for the Raiders on the football field, Fraire is wrestling above last year’s weight.
Tipping the scales at 235, he has had to wrestle the first few matches to start the year in the 285-weight class. It hasn’t affected his win-loss record. He is undefeated against heavyweights and beat out wrestlers from 16 other schools to win the Woodstock Invitational, comprised mostly of Class 5A and 6A schools. Southeast Whitfield competes in Class 4A.
Despite no blemishes, he admitted that wrestling above his weight is a challenge.
“Those guys are usually stronger than me, but I am just using my technique,” Fraire said. “Those guys are pretty big and strong, and they start leaning on you. If they get you down, you better get up pretty quick because they know how to use their weight.”
Still, he plans to get back to his slimmer self.
“This is my senior year, and I have struggled to make weight,” he said. “I have thought a lot about just putting on more weight and wrestling at heavyweight. But I can help the team more at 220.”
Fraire isn’t exactly the most intimidating presence. He is quiet, seemingly always listening to headphones. On the sidelines, he laughs a lot. But on the mat, he hasn’t had a hard time of changing his persona. In fact, he says his low-key demeanor can be a big aid when it comes time to grapple.
“I am going for the ring, and that can help me,” he said. “It can especially help me whenever they see a non-intimidating, 5-foot-10 Mexican. They think, ‘I got this chump.’”
By the end of the year, Fraire hopes to make the rest of the state think again.